Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

'As Above, So Below', detail, by James Aldridge, Manchester City Art Gallery, 2012

‘As Above, So Below’, detail, by James Aldridge, Manchester City Art Gallery, 2012

Enter these enchanted woods,

You who dare.

Nothing harms beneath the leaves

More than waves a swimmer cleaves.

Toss your heart up with the lark,

Foot at peace with mouse and worm,

Fair you fare.

Only at a dread of dark

Quaver and they quit their form:

Thousand eyeballs under hoods

Have you by the hair.

'As Above, So Below', detail, by James Aldridge, Manchester City Art Gallery, 2012

‘As Above, So Below’, detail, by James Aldridge, Manchester City Art Gallery, 2012

Enter these enchanted woods

You who dare.

Each has business of his own;

But should you distrust a tone,

Then beware.

Shudder all the haunted roods,

All the eyeballs under hoods

Shroud you in their glare.

Enter these enchanted woods

You who dare.

(from the Woods of Westermain, 1912, by George Meredith)

trees

‘The whole world seemed running now, running hard, hunting, chasing, closing in round something or – somebody? In panic, he began to run too, aimlessly he knew not whither. He ran up against things, he fell over things and into things, he darted under things and dodged around things. At last he took refuge in the deep dark hollow of an old beech tree, which offered shelter, concealment – perhaps even safety, but who could tell? … and as he lay there panting and trembling, and listened to the whistlings and the patterings outside, he knew it at last, in all its fullness, that dread thing which other little dwellers in field and hedgerow had encountered here, and known as their darkest moment – that thing which the Rat had vainly tried to shield him from – the Terror of the Wild Wood!’

(Mole in the Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame)

night11 night14 night4

In the Northern European folklore tradition woods and forests are enchanted places. From the pagan origins of many winter solstice customs involving mistletoe and boughs of greenery to later Christian adoptions such as the Christmas tree, trees have played their part. Fairy tales continue earlier fears of the dark and unknown, the wild. Sleeping Beauty is protected by a tangled ring of trees and brambles. Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel come to grief in the woods.

Installation, Kensington Palace 2010

Installation, Kensington Palace 2010

More recent tales continue the tradition – the Wind in the Willows, the fantasies of the 1970s such as The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper.

‘He learned the nature of all trees, the particular magics that are in oak and beech and ash. Then one verse stood alone on a page of the Book:

He that sees blowing the wild wood tree,

And peewits circling their watery glass,

Dreams about Strangers that yet may be

Dark to our eyes, Alas!

And into Will’s mind, whirling him up on a wind blowing through and around the whole of Time, came the story of the Old Ones. He saw them from the beginning when magic was at large in the world.’

Wonder Forest, 2012 by Manabu Hangai

Wonder Forest, 2012 by Manabu Hangai

Sequel 2012 (detail) by Nicola Dale

Sequel 2012 (detail) by Nicola Dale

The Map Of My Entire Life, (detail) by Rob Ryan, 2012

The Map Of My Entire Life, (detail) by Rob Ryan, 2012

The Day We changed Our Lives For Ever, Mushroom Forest I, 2005 by Andrea Dezso

The Day We changed Our Lives For Ever, Mushroom Forest I, 2005 by Andrea Dezso

Now we have Winter Wonderlands encroaching into the cities. The current exhibition at Manchester City Art Gallery ‘The First Cut’, features many specially commissioned paper versions of enchanted woods, from Manabu Hangai’s Wonder Forest, with real branches from woods near Manchester to Nicola Dale’s felled oak tree adorned with leaves from discarded books forming a ‘Tree of Knowledge’ to James Aldridge and Rob Ryan’s silhouettes, and Andrea Dezso’s paper theatre ‘The day We Changed Our Lives forever, Mushroom Forest I’.

Installation, Kensington Palace 2010

Installation, Kensington Palace 2010

Installation, Kensington Palace 2010

Installation, Kensington Palace 2010

Installation, Kensington Palace 2010

Installation, Kensington Palace 2010

Other magical spaces have been created in the interiors and grounds of historic houses such as Kensington Palace and Syon Park’s woods a few winters ago, as well as theme parks, and now this month even in Leicester Square in the heart of London.

Syon Park

Syon Park

night16 Lights3

Bird

The trees are fighting back and making their presence felt even in the cities. Remember trees are magic, but trees are for life not just for Christmas.

Further Information:

http://www.manchestergalleries.org/whats-on/exhibitions/index.php?itemID=92

Advertisements